What Is Family Diplomacy?
Our world is becoming more complex and interdependent as more people, goods, services and interactions flow across national borders. This changing global reality has triggered xenophobic, sometimes violent reactions that have been validated and amplified by political activists and opportunistic leaders. Diplomacy is rightly upheld as an important response to the mounting tensions within and between some countries, but diplomacy should not be left strictly to professionals. The internet and smart phones open exciting possibilities for citizens to be involved in diplomacy to help promote peace, prosperity and justice, but success and our global future depend in part on fresh approaches. This is the fourth in a series of posts intended to advance family diplomacy as a new form of citizen diplomacy for a more caring world. Read the first post here.
This post, in the form of a Q&A, answers some basic questions about family diplomacy, and how you can become a Family Diplomat.
Why family diplomacy?
Families are widely valued across the world, and deeply impacted by international affairs, from global trade, to immigration, to climate change. Yet the voices of families are hardly heard in intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, even as the voices of youth and women are rightly being amplified. Allowing families to connect, share, learn, and speak publicly to their needs, concerns and aspirations in and to governments across the world is vital to nurturing a more caring world. Learn more about why families should be involved in diplomacy here.
What is family diplomacy?
Family diplomacy means three things:
- Families talking and learning together across lines of country, class, race and religion.
- Families publicly voicing their own and other families’ needs, concerns and aspirations.
- Families participating in the decisions that affect their lives via local to global nonprofits, governments and businesses.
Currently, via our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI), Learning Life is actively pursuing 1 and 2 above, and planning for 3.
To learn more about the idea of and reasons for family diplomacy, click here.
What is the Family Diplomacy Initiative?
Launched in 2016, the Family Diplomacy Initiative or FDI is the program through which Learning Life advances family diplomacy worldwide. In 2017-2019, Learning Life completed two pilot projects — a community photo project and a food culture project — that engaged a small number of lower-income families in the USA, El Salvador, Senegal and Jordan. Since summer 2019, we have been scaling up FDI to encourage thousands of people worldwide to share and learn about family life via our FDI Facebook Group. In 2020, we completed a larger food culture project, and in 2021 we organized a series of six live international family dialogues focused on the question: “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”
How can I become a Family Diplomat (FD)?
Family diplomacy will evolve as Learning Life develops FDI, but right now, here are four ways you can engage as an FD:
- Join our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) on Facebook to connect, share and learn with a growing number of families across the globe.
- Fill out your own “We Are Family Diplomats” Poster with a photo of your family plus your family’s completion of the sentence: “We are family diplomats because…” See the above poster for an example from the Gowtham Family in India. You can email us with your family photo, sentence completion, family name, city and country at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Respond to the weekly “Eye on Families” posts in the FDI Facebook Group to share and learn about families with others worldwide.
- Take part in the annual FD training. In 2022, every Sunday for 1.5 hours from July 10 to October 23, Learning Life is gathering FD family storytelling trainees in different countries in one group via Zoom to learn from experts and practitioners about citizen diplomacy, global family studies (patterns, trends and issues facing families worldwide), and oral storytelling. FD trainees will have the opportunity to create their own family story, practice their stories together in our weekly meetings, culminating in performance of their stories live in October, with the best three storytellers receiving cash awards up to $1,000 (U.S. dollars). Click here for more information.
Anyone in the world is qualified to volunteer as an FD if they:
- Are On Facebook, and willing to join our FDI Facebook Group.
- Have a strong enough internet connection to participate in Zoom audio or video calls.
- Speak English at at least a strong intermediate level.
- Are at least 14 years old, and mature enough to participate meaningfully in FD activities.
- Are committed to participating in FDI activities, including periodic live international dialogues and the annual FD training via Zoom described above.
Serving as one of Learning Life’s Family Diplomats takes about 3-5 hours per month on average (in 2022, 6-8 hours per month during the FD training July 10-October 23). The benefits include:
- Make new friends across the world.
- Develop a deeper understanding of the forces impacting families, and the perspectives of family members worldwide.
- Gain a resume-building experience (for those who want it)
- Get the chance to win recognition as one of Learning Life’s best Family Diplomats for those who participate most actively.
To apply to become a Family Diplomat, please (a) join the Family Diplomacy Initiative on Facebook, and (b) fill out this FD screening survey. If you meet the qualifications above, we will contact you with more details via Facebook and/or email.
How does Learning Life define family?
Families come in all shapes and sizes, so we define families broadly as two or more people related by blood, marriage, and/or a legal, caring commitment to each other. This, to us, includes same-sex and opposite-sex couples, unmarried couples, couples with or without children, single parents with one or more kids, siblings or cousins living together, grandparents living with grandchildren, and others, including adopted children and family pets. The importance of family is love, not who loves.
Photo below: Family representatives from Venezuela and the USA share their answers in the FDI Facebook Group in answer to the question “what does breakfast look like in your family?” as part of Learning Life’s 2020 food culture project.